Gratitude. Psychologists and Neurologists tell us that gratitude is so important to humans that it has the power to actually “re-wire” our neuropathways. It can decrease depression and help us to live lives that are physically and mentally healthier. Studies have shown that taking time each day to identify and list 3-5 things for which you are thankful for will, over time, change and improve a persons’ perspective and emotional outlook.
In the Christian faith, we are called to be people of gratitude. We are called to take time everyday to ponder where God has been at work in our lives, to identify how God has blessed us, and to daily take time to give thanks to God.
We do know this. But sometimes we all fail to stop and do this task of faith. The reasons are many. We have busy lives. We are tired at the end of the day. Or we just simply forget. Or, we are so focused on what we need and the prayer needs of others, that we fill our prayer time asking for God’s help. These are not bad reasons; they are just our lived reality.
And yet, gratitude is so important to both our health and our faith. Our faith grows as we intentionally articulate how we have seen God at work in our world and our lives. Some leaders in faith development encourage the use of a prayer journal for this work. With a prayer journal, you cannot only write down what you are praying for and what you are grateful for, but also how God is answering your prayers. Identifying how God answers your prayers increases your list of thanksgivings!
In my personal life, I have been working to get back on track with my own daily prayer and devotional life. This has been challenging with my cancer diagnosis and treatment. Honestly, there have been many days when I just haven’t felt well enough to focus on much of anything. But on the other days, I work to stay on task.
Staying on task has also been challenging as I begin to wrap my mind around my diagnosis (Stage 4), and try to comprehend what it means that, even with treatment, I will have to deal with the reality of cancer for the rest of my life. This is a daunting realization.
And yet, I have found so much for which to be grateful. For example, so many people have stepped up to keep things happening while I undergo treatments. The annual participation of the Confirmation class on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday happened because parents and mentors of the students stepped up to help. Another example, so many people have stepped in to help me in so many necessary ways that I could not have anticipated: creating a chemo bag of stuff I use while getting treatments; driving me to appointments, grocery shopping, cooking meals, sitting with me and taking care of me in the days after treatments, working in my garden, sending literally hundred of encouraging cards, and, of course, praying for me.
I can honestly say that I don’t know how I could get through treatment without the generous help of so many people. Even in life’s most difficult times, God is still blessing us. Even in our darkest days, we can be grateful.
If you have not started a gratitude and thanksgiving discipline in your faith practice, I encourage you to give it a go now. See where it leads you. Start by identifying at least three things each day for which you can give thanks to God. It’s good for your faith. It’s good for your health. See where it leads your heart.